Understanding alopecia areata

The autoimmune disorder that results in patchy hair loss on the body, face, or scalp is called alopecia areata, warranting a visit to qualified specialist like Dermatologist in Model Town Lahore. This autoimmune disorder often shocks the patient as it happens without warning and leaves the patient distraught.

Read on to know more about alopecia areata:

What are the causes of alopecia areata?

In most cases, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder; consequently, the immune system mistakes the healthy cells for diseased cells and attacks them. The cells under attack here are the follicular cells that house the hair. These are the structures from which hair cells grow. When alopecia areata occurs, the follicles become smaller and stop producing hair.

Alopecia areata in males

Both genders are prone to alopecia areata, however, it is more noticeable in males. Hair loss of alopecia areata on the scalp is different from the male pattern baldness in which gradual thinning occurs uniformly so. Alopecia areata, on the other hand, causes patchy hair loss. There may be loss of hair on the chest, back and face, as well.

Alopecia areata in females

In comparison to males, the incidence of alopecia areata is higher in females, though the cause is not understood yet. The areas affected include the scalp, eyelashes, and eyebrows, and may remain confined to a small area though the onset is sudden.

Alopecia areata in children

Children with alopecia areata don’t always have a parent with similar condition, thereby proving the small hereditary component of the disease. In addition to alopecia areata, these children may also have nail lesions and pitting.

For children under the age of 5, the emotional impact of alopecia areata is far less than those older than 5 years. According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, the condition is traumatizing in the latter, and warrant a visit to a counselor.

What are the types of alopecia areata?

Based on the pattern of hair loss, there are different classifications of alopecia areata.

Alopecia areata totalis is when there is complete hair loss on the scalp.

Diffuse alopecia areata refers to thinning of hair rather than complete loss. Often, this condition is confused with male or female pattern hair loss, as it occurs all over the scalp and not in a localized area.

Alopecia areata universalis is the complete loss of hair on the body—including the eyebrows and eyelashes.

Ophiasis alopecia is the pattern of hair loss along the lower back and sides of the scalp.

How is alopecia treated?

The treatment of alopecia areata is mainly directed at the body’s immune system. In addition to medication, non-pharmacological therapies are also recommended for management.

Diet: processed and sugar-rich foods enhance inflammation, thereby worsening alopecia. For individuals diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, following an ‘anti-inflammatory diet’ is helpful. Hair loss episodes are reduced once one follows this diet.  Fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, lean meats, whole grains and beets form the foundation of this diet.

Corticosteroids: are the drugs that fight the body’s immune system. They may be given directly at the site of alopecia into the skin, or as a pill to be rubbed topically. They are effective for treatment but take a long time to work.

Minoxidil (rogaine): is applied to the scalp for pattern baldness. Certain types of alopecia respond very well to minoxidil while others don’t. It takes more than 12 weeks to see results with this drug.

Immunotherapy: topical immunotherapy is recommended by experts such as Dermatologist in DHA Karachi when the hair loss is massive and repetitive. These drugs produce localized allergic reaction to make the hair grow back.

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